Thailand, the land of smiles, is known to be a place of food, culture, and celebration. Its capital city, Bangkok, is said to have a vibe that is like no other in the world. So it should come as no surprise that the country has some of the most colorful, unique festivals in the world. Thailand loves a reason to celebrate, meaning you can find a festival practically any time of the year. The only question is, where will you celebrate?
Visit Thailand in November and you will experience one of the most spectacular festivals the country has to offer. Loy Krathong is arguably one of Thailand’s most popular and well-known festivals. Held on the full moon of the 12th month of the Thai lunar calendar, the festival features the release of thousands of lanterns into the sky and waters. Loi translates to float. A Krathong is a vessel traditionally made of banana leaves, filled with candles, flowers, and incense. It is believed that the release of the Krathong into the waters is a blessing to Buddha and brings in good fortune to the new year. It is not uncommon for locals to put nail clippings or pieces of hair in their Krathong to send away bad things.
The release of lanterns is more commonly seen in northern Thailand. During the Yi Peng Floating Lantern Festival, thousands of lanterns are lit and released into the air. The resulting site is one of the most unique views you will experience. Both festivals take place in November with the dates changing based on the Thai calendar.
Bo Sang Umbrella Festival
Imagine looking up and seeing nothing but brightly colored parasols. This is what you will find at the Bo Sang Umbrella Festival. The festival takes places in Bo Sang, on the outskirts of Chiang Mai, on the third weekend of January. It’s a celebration of local artisans and features beautifully crafted umbrellas in a rainbow of colors. Particularly special is the mulberry bark paper parasol, hand painted with intricate designs. But there’s more than umbrellas. The festival includes markets, carnival games, music, and even a beauty pageant.
Songkran Water Festival
Ask someone who has experienced the Songkran Water Festival what it was like and they will likely tell you it was like the biggest water fight they have ever been in. Every year in mid-April, all across Thailand, people gather to celebrate the Thai New Year. In the Buddhist culture, pouring or throwing water is meant to symbolize the washing away of the past and its misfortunes. It represents a clean start for the new year. Throughout the country, locals and tourists come together for an epic three-day water fight filled with family, food, and fun. Many businesses shut down and give their employees the time off. If you are staying in a major city in Thailand, be prepared to get wet if you venture outside. Dress accordingly and make sure to stay hydrated and reapply your sun lotion as the event takes place during Thailand’s hottest time of the year.
Phi Ta Khon (Ghost Festival)
One of the most unique and colorful festivals in Thailand, the Phi Ta Khon Festival (otherwise known as the Ghost Festival) is a celebration of a joyous time. The Jataka Tales tell the story of the lives of Siddhattha Gotama before he became the Buddha. Just prior to becoming the Buddha he was the prince, Vessandara. The Phi Ta Khon celebrated his homecoming, in which all came, including the spirits of the dead. The festival celebrates the uniting of the living and dead.
The festival takes place over three days. These days will vary each year (usually taking place between March and June) and are chosen by local mediums. The event is lively and features locals dressed as ghosts, parades, rocket launchings, and lots of dancing. The festival is popular in Thailand, so accommodations should be planned well in advance.
Chinese New Year
The Chinese New Year is the most important festival in the Chinese culture. It is a time of celebration, worship, family gathering, and welcoming the new year. But it is not solely celebrated in China. The celebration takes place all throughout Asia and Thailand is no exception. At least 14% of the Thai population identifies as Chinese and there are many representations of the Chinese culture throughout Thailand. In Bangkok, the festival is celebrated in Yaowarat Chinatown and includes food, performances, and other attractions. Festivities can also be found Phuket Old Town and Queens Park in Muang district. Past events have included acrobatic shows and folk dancing.
Chinese New Year begins on the last day of the lunar year and goes until the 15th day of the next year.
The name of the festival may give off the impression that this festival is nothing more than abstaining from beef and enjoying a few more salads, but this festival, also known as the Nine Emperor Gods Festival is rich in history and tradition. During the nine-day Chinese festival, residents abstain from all meat products. Though named the vegetarian festival, the allowed diet is vegan. During the festival, jay is practiced. During jay, those who follow abstain from lying, alcohol, stealing, gambling, and sex. They wear white to represent their purity.
The festival takes place throughout all of Thailand, but the biggest events occur in Bangkok and Phuket. Visitors will find colorful parades, firecrackers, dragons, and lots of vegan food. In Phuket, the celebration showcases an extreme display of participation. Here, a select number of religious devotees, mah song, pierce their faces with swords, knives, and various rods. This act is viewed as a surrender to the gods.
A visit to Thailand will expose travelers to the traditions, beliefs, and cultures of the land. A festival is a great opportunity to celebrate and meet the residents of the country. There are a variety of festivals throughout the year. When you plan your trip, mind the calendar, and try to include at least one festival during your stay. It is sure to bring an experience that will be one of the highlights of your adventure.